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Cancer Prev Control. 1998 Apr;2(2):74-8.

Effectiveness of megestrol acetate in patients with advanced cancer: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study.

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Cross Cancer Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton.



To evaluate the effect of megestrol acetate at a lower dose than previously investigated on the symptoms of cachexia in patients with advanced cancer.


A total of 84 patients with advanced, solid tumours not responsive to hormone therapy were enrolled in this double-blind, crossover study. During phase 1, patients were randomly assigned to receive megestrol acetate (160 mg 3 times daily) for 10 days or placebo. During phase 2, after a 2-day washout period, patients received the alternate treatment for 10 days. Patients underwent daily assessments of activity, nausea, appetite and well-being by means of a visual analogue scale (VAS). In addition, nutritional status (weight, tricep skinfold measure, arm muscle circumference), energy intake, fatigue (Piper Fatigue Scale) and quality of life (Functional Living Index-Cancer [FLIC]) were assessed.


Among the 53 evaluable patients megestrol acetate resulted in a significant improvement in appetite (p = 0.005), activity (p = 0.007) and well-being (p = 0.03). There was no significant change in the intensity of nausea, nutritional parameters, energy intake or FLIC scores. There was a significant improvement in 2 of the 3 factors measured by the Piper Fatigue Scale and in the overall fatigue score. Upon completion of the study, while still blind to the treatment condition, 30 patients indicated that they felt better overall after megestrol, 15 said they felt better after placebo, and 10 indicated no preference (p = 0.001).


Treatment with megestrol acetate results in rapid and significant improvement of symptoms in terminally ill patients at lower doses than previously reported. The effects are not secondary to nutritional changes. The FLIC quality-of-life questionnaire was unable to detect these changes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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